Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation’s press.
Beyond Wonderland: Pop icon Michael Jackson continues plans to expand his fantasy empire. Jackson told reporters Monday he’ll team up with a Japanese company to build three sprawling theme parks, complete with golf courses and hotels, and create a new chain of toy stores in Japan and elsewhere. “This is going to be one of a kind,” he said. Just where the parks will be built is yet to be determined, but two will be built in Japan. Jackson has also said he wants to build similar theme parks in Poland and Brazil. His Wonder World of Toys stores in Japan and Guam are scheduled to open by March.
Sharing the ‘Good Vibrations’: Thirty-seven California music critics have voted on their choices for the best songs to emulate the Golden State, with the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” topping the list, followed by the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” and the Knack’s “My Sharona.” One of the state’s quintessential songs, the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin,’ ” came fourth in the tally, followed by the lone contemporary song in the Top 10: Beck’s “Loser.” Completing the Top 10 in the survey, compiled by BAM magazine: Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed,” the Plimsouls’ “A Million Miles Away,” the Turtles’ “Happy Together” and the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb.”
‘Chicago’ Star on Injured List: Charlotte D’Amboise, one of the stars of “Chicago” at the Shubert Theatre, suffered a neck injury during Friday’s performance and was not in the cast during subsequent weekend performances, replaced by understudies Michelle Potterf and Linda Bowen. A spokesman said D’Amboise is expected back “early in the week,” though a definite return date was not known.
Sahl Steps Aside: Comedian Mort Sahl’s planned two-month run at the Jazz Bakery has ended after two weeks. Sahl was reportedly drawing slim crowds for the second of his nightly shows. He and Ruth Price, the Bakery’s director, made a mutual decision to terminate the engagement, according to Price. “We don’t see it as a failure,” she said. “It was an experiment that Mort and I thought might work--combining comedy with jazz. And we did well in the opening shows, although it was more difficult to draw crowds for the second sets. But Mort’s material was wonderful, and I think it was an experiment that was worth doing.” The Jazz Bakery’s music schedule for August will continue, without Sahl, as announced.
Writers Guild to Honor Sturges: Award-winning comedy writer and director Preston Sturges will be honored by the Writers Guild and the Writers Guild Foundation on Aug. 29 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The tribute, which will take place on what would have been Sturges’ 100th birthday, will feature a screening of the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer,” as well as a panel of writers discussing Sturges’ contributions. “Preston Sturges holds a unique place in film history,” said Tom Schulman, Writers Guild Foundation president. “He had an unparalleled way with words, and at the same time he was a master of the physical gag.” In addition to the one-night tribute, a retrospective of Sturges films--including “Sullivan’s Travels,” “Hail the Conquering Hero,” “The Lady Eve,” “The Palm Beach Story” and “The Great McGinty,” for which Sturges won an Academy Award--will kick off Aug. 20 and run through Sept. 5.
WB, UPN Get Animated: The WB and UPN networks will add to the recent proliferation of animated prime-time series. UPN announced it will premiere a series based on the comic strip “Dilbert” in January, while the WB has ordered a show from two former “The Simpsons” writers, “The Downtowners,” to premiere later next year. Fox, home of “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” has three new animated shows in the works for 1999, including a series from “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, “Futurama.”
CBS finally has announced a launch date for “The Howard Stern Show.” The weekly, hourlong program, featuring a combination of the best of Stern’s radio show and animated clips, will premiere Aug. 22 at 11:30 p.m. . . . Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will bring an 18-piece orchestra to the Ed Sullivan Theater Aug. 5 as musical guest on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” Marsalis and crew will perform music from his latest album, “The Midnight Blues.” . . . “Lick the Star,” the directorial debut of actress Sofia Coppola (the daughter of “Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola), will premiere Saturday at 9:35 p.m. on cable’s Bravo channel. The movie focuses on a group of hell-raising 13-year-old girls. . . . UPN has made a deal to broadcast the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 15th annual Hall of Fame ceremony next season. The latest batch of inductees will be announced in September.